Celebrity Divorces: Billions of dollars do not assuage emotional pain

Celebrity Divorces: Billions of dollars do not assuage emotional pain

On 10 January, 2019, The Atlantic ran the following article that focused exclusively on the dollars involved in what has become the very public divorce of Jeff Bezos and his wife of MacKenzie. The article, while useful in illuminating the quantitive aspects of ultra high net worth relationships, failed to capture the underlying emotional turmoil that underlies the disintegration of marriages that grew from a foundation of trust, love and vulnerability.  As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has the privilege of working with ultra high net worth couples all over the world, I’ve witnessed first hand how a myopic focus on the financial aspects of a couple’s life ultimately leads to the destruction of both financial and emotional resources through the pernicious relational dynamics of anger, resentment and retaliation. The successful negotiation of these destructive forces requires a contained and artful process to identify, honor and calibrate the feelings of loss, disappointment and betrayal that accompanies the end of a romantic union. We’ve been acculturated to believe that the money, billions in this case, will be enough to assuage the shame and humiliation that celebrity couples feel from the demise of their marriage, but it’s not. People of extra ordinary wealth need more than sophisticated legal and financial advice, they need a process to manage the intensity of their emotions just like everyone else.

How Divorces Work for the Super-Wealthy

On Wednesday, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and currently the richest person in the world, and MacKenzie Bezos, a novelist, announced that they are ending their marriage after 25 years. In a joint statement posted on Twitter, the couple said they see “wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures.”
One such adventure, even if it’s not what the Bezoses had in mind when crafting their tweet, will be divvying up the couple’s enormous financial holdings, which are estimated to add up to about $137 billion.
How will that process unfold and who will end up with how much? It’s common for very wealthy couples to come to an agreement out of court, usually in the interest of privacy. But those who work with really, really rich people know from past experience that their divorces stand apart from those of regular folks.
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